Editorial: In the Entertainment Business, They are Not Our “Fans”

Working the red carpets of Hollywood’s most prestigious events, one quickly catches on to who gets it, and who doesn’t. Who interacts with people, and who comes down the carpet, hits their mark for photos, and passes on down the line. Then, there are those who simply duck the whole process and use the side door!

For years I have said it is people like Tom Cruise that get it. It’s about the fans. However, today, I stand corrected by none other than Johnny Depp, while speaking at the Venice Film Festival this morning (9/4/2015).

Johnny Depp attends the 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
Johnny Depp attends the 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2/5/2005)

As reported by Ariston Anderson of The Hollywood Reporter, “I’ve never liked the term fans,” he [Depp] said of the attention. “But I consider those people essentially our employers. They’re the boss because they’re the ones who go to the cinema and spend their hard earned money to escape for two hours to watch a film. I thank my bosses outside.”

I (Lee Roth) single out Tom Cruise above because I’ve seen him in action, literally. We were at the premiere of “Collateral” at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Producer Michael Mann wanted to hold the premiere downtown because that is where a lot of the movie was shot (notably with my own blog posts of late) in natural, available light.

Tom Cruise attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Collateral"
Tom Cruise attends the Los Angeles Premiere of “Collateral”

Activity begins to wind down on the red carpet as curtain time approaches. The celebrities are finishing up photo ops and interviews, and are filtering into the theater. Tom was with the crowd, at the rails talking with several people and taking selfies with all comers (this, in 2004, before selfies were the norm). Then his publicist began to let him know that the curtain call was approaching with gentle suggestions and hints it was time to go. At one point, an assistant approached him and lightly touched his shoulder to let him know the movie was starting.

Tom’s reaction? “I’ve seen it!” he said somewhat loudly as he reached into the crowd and took someone’s cell phone saying, “Hi! This is Tom. Who am I talking to?”

He. gets. it!

Tom Cruise attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Collateral"
Tom Cruise attends the Los Angeles Premiere of “Collateral”

On a personal note, this premiere was on August 2, 2004. To still remember this particular detail among all the events I have covered over the years, I hope helps drive home the point. In spite of whatever controversies he may be associated with, one thing is clear to this photojournalist … Tom Cruise = Class Act!

Actually, I guess I now have to say, two things are clear … add Johnny Depp too = Class Act!

OK … three! In my work with actor/comedian Sinbad all the way back in 1997 for his HBO special, Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival. In a production meeting one afternoon, Sinbad said he did not like the term “Fans.”  Hence, while considering how to address his growing online community … in 1997! … I suggested we use the word Family, representing the family values of his comedy. Sinbad immediately liked the idea, and so did the regular “OG Chatters” who quickly Funktified the term. They began to proudly assert themselves as Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival Familee! Many of us still hang out online together, 18 years later. We are truly … Familee! 🙂 ❤

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